Ahhh, the good old days! Learning to ride a bike…going to school…realizing school sucks and getting out for summer break…realizing summer doesn’t suck but being too ignorant to realize how fleeting it is, thus being able to enjoy it without thinking how little of it is left like I do…first crush…first kiss…second kiss…twenty-eighth kiss…college…college…college…first job…marriage…first baby…every baby…new house…
I took a trip to the good-old-days yesterday, thanks to the realization that 1,000 photos on my phone is probably more than I need to keep readily available. As I was trying to pare it down to more like 100 so as to give my phone about half of its memory back, I couldn’t believe how much my kids had grown in the time it took to take those 1,000 pictures – less than two years. Probably 200 of them were pictures actually taken by my kids, which means they were of things like the back of the driver’s seat in our minivan, or, when they are feeling more artsy, the floor of the car near their seats, revealing a breath-taking array of crushed potato chips, Chick-fil-a french fries, assorted cellophane wrappers, and a discarded, forgotten toy, the desire for which brought them to tears only two days ago…before they got that other toy…which will be in tomorrow’s picture, taken by one of the kids.
But the pictures I actually took, meaning the good ones, were a poignant reminder of how fast life goes. I still feel like my kids are brand new, though I haven’t changed a diaper in almost two years (thank God), and my kids act more like humans than raccoons the majority of the time, which wasn’t the case for what seemed like decades but now seems like four minutes. Even though the pictures I was sorting through were no more than two years old, I felt like an eighty-four-year-old grandpa wondering where the time went.
And then I realized that there will come a time when today seems like ages ago, when the frustrating parts are forgotten, and the photographs we took today will seem like snapshots of a simpler time when everyone was innocent and happy. That’s not the case, of course. The reality is that today my son literally hurt himself while sitting still in his car seat. Actually, he hurt himself when he fell out of his car seat, somehow, while the car was perfectly still and absolutely nothing other than the pulsating energy of an almost-five-year-old body could inexplicably cause him to fall. For a few minutes, I questioned the design flaws in human beings, wondering why we don’t come ready-made to avoid harming ourselves by defying the laws of inertia. But once the can-you-possibly-be-hurt-that-bad-crying stopped, life was pretty good again, and a picture would’ve probably captured what will soon seem like “the good old days.”
My brain isn’t very good at enjoying the moment, embracing the journey, savoring the process, living in the moment, blah, blah, blah. No, my brain would much prefer fretting about how Josiah will hurt himself tonight while he’s sleeping in his padded room…or feeling too sad to look at old pictures because they just remind me that life will never have a pause button – not for the few seconds of bliss that come about once every five years, nor for the moments when I need to hit pause so I don’t hit the person who just did or said something selfish and stupid at my expense.
I have always been hyper-aware of the brevity of life. I’ve thought incessantly about death since I can remember, wondering when it will be my fated turn to get THAT phone call. And then I beat myself up for being so damn morbid. And then I repeat the same pattern over and over. And then I get mad at myself for all the moments I’ve missed repeating this pattern. And then I repeat the pattern again. This is why I am writing this well past my bedtime and why I haven’t had a decent night’s sleep in over six months. How I wish I could turn off the madness and live right in the moment, content with whatever my circumstances are right then, whether it’s the moment in the photograph or the moment five minutes later when I’m apologizing to my kids again for using the F-word and the S-word and the D-word when Ellie Ruth does a cartwheel right into Josiah’s face…again.
The point of this post isn’t to beat myself up for sucking at what I’m encouraging you to get better at. It’s just a little note written to all of us to remember that today will probably seem like the good old days at some point. Hopefully this will remind us not only to cherish each moment, but also to remember that the good old days had their bumps and bruises just like today does. There are no good old days. OR, if you’re an optimist (unlike me), every day is the good old days!
So try to remember that life is indeed short, so each day, just buy the damn pony (even if today’s pony is a three-legged, one-eyed, ready-for-the-glue-factory sort of pony).
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